Kerre McIvor

Kerre McIvor is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Kerre McIvor: Debt collection an insult piled on excruciating injury

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Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

I really didn't think the Novopay debacle could get any worse - but the decision by Talent2, the company that runs Novopay, and the Ministry of Education to sic debt collectors on to teachers who have been overpaid was mind-numbingly stupid.

When many, many teachers and education support staff were still waiting to be paid the salaries owed them; when boards of trustees were dipping into school funds to ensure their staff didn't go short; when the problems had been going on for six months without any sign that things were getting better, the decision to try to claim back money that has been overpaid to a few teachers - using heavy-handed tactics such as debt collectors - was just plain dumb.

Especially when a number of teachers who've spoken out about the overpayments have told how they've been trying to repay the money since November of last year. The payroll staff at their schools had no idea how to give back the cash, nor, apparently, did anyone spoken to at Novopay.

The obvious response to the announcement that Baycorp debt collectors had been hired to chase up the overpayments was to suggest that perhaps the debt collectors could be sent back to Novopay to bully the company into coming up with the money they still owe to education staff. Ian Leckie, the immediate past president of the New Zealand Educational Institute, said his school had so far forked out $45,000 to staff who had been underpaid by this dog of a payroll system.

If anyone should be calling in the bailiffs, it should be teachers.

I hope the Minister for Everything, Steven Joyce, is giving the person at the Education Ministry who signed off on this ludicrous decision a jolly good telling off. I bet he wishes caning wasn't banned.

The fact that the debt collectors were called off after the public outcry hasn't prevented yet another public relations disaster for which Novopay and the ministry are entirely responsible.

If they had shown the same alacrity and commitment to following up on their underpayment of staff, perhaps they wouldn't still be in such a mess.

- Herald on Sunday

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